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Biotechnol Bioeng. 2014 May;111(5):849-57. doi: 10.1002/bit.25205. Epub 2014 Feb 24.

Systems metabolic engineering design: fatty acid production as an emerging case study.

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Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.


Increasing demand for petroleum has stimulated industry to develop sustainable production of chemicals and biofuels using microbial cell factories. Fatty acids of chain lengths from C6 to C16 are propitious intermediates for the catalytic synthesis of industrial chemicals and diesel-like biofuels. The abundance of genetic information available for Escherichia coli and specifically, fatty acid metabolism in E. coli, supports this bacterium as a promising host for engineering a biocatalyst for the microbial production of fatty acids. Recent successes rooted in different features of systems metabolic engineering in the strain design of high-yielding medium chain fatty acid producing E. coli strains provide an emerging case study of design methods for effective strain design. Classical metabolic engineering and synthetic biology approaches enabled different and distinct design paths towards a high-yielding strain. Here we highlight a rational strain design process in systems biology, an integrated computational and experimental approach for carboxylic acid production, as an alternative method. Additional challenges inherent in achieving an optimal strain for commercialization of medium chain-length fatty acids will likely require a collection of strategies from systems metabolic engineering. Not only will the continued advancement in systems metabolic engineering result in these highly productive strains more quickly, this knowledge will extend more rapidly the carboxylic acid platform to the microbial production of carboxylic acids with alternate chain-lengths and functionalities.


Escherichia coli; fatty acid; metabolic engineering; rational strain design; synthetic biology

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